Monday, April 02, 2007

SLANT to return

While it may still have a way to go to tie the Michael Jordan record for comebacks, SLANT is coming back, again.

To begin with SLANT was a project to help fight off a sudden depression. In April of 1985 your narrator dislocated an ankle playing basketball, which totally pulled the rug from under his lifestyle. Right away, I lost my part-time job, which paid the rent.

A few months of living alone on crutches taught me some new lessons, and it finally sat me down long enough to put together the first issue of a magazine concept that had been rattling around in my mind for a long time. I actually designed my first thing of that sort when I was about 10 -- it was a comic strip sports section filled with drawings and stories of an assortment of cartoon animals as players.

After designing many a Biograph Theatre program as its manager (1972-83), I couldn’t quit making little newsletters and handbills just because the original purpose for them was gone, when I quit the job. Over the next year-and-a-half, writing movie reviews for STYLE Weekly and the local PBS radio station, and serving as the art director for Throttle, I began to plan my own publication.

After two 16-page issues in 1985, and a hiatus, SLANT began its longest continuous run on April 1, 1986, as a handbill stapled to utility poles. SLANT evolved and survived for nine years in spite of the odds in the real world against what was such an off-the-wall, warmed-over from underground comix periodical. During its run the format ranged from handbill to newsletter to tabloid. Always SLANT looked at life as seen from the cultural epicenter of Richmond, the Fan District.

In March 1994 SLANT’s readers were told the magazine would shut down and return after a spell. Although I was fresh out of ideas I thought that meant a few months, but I got busy with other things ... among them writing for other publishers.

The 32-page Unvarnished Nostalgia edition of SLANT was published out of the blue in December 2001. After which, SLANT in one form or another was published sporadically over the next four years. Also, SLANTblog began in the fall of 2003.

Now, riding this year’s springtime mania, I’m taking time away from laughing at the Republicans trying desperately to hose down each week’s new scandal, before the damage spreads, to crank SLANT’s press up again. Although the fresh new SLANT will look somewhat like its previous incarnations, this time there will some differences.

This first issue will have a few short pieces on this and that, much as SLANT has always run, but with the new format most of the space will be devoted to the telling of one feature story. For the May 2007 issue, SLANT will present the “The Story of the Fan District Softball League (1975-94).”

The freewheeling FDSL -- with members such as the Back Door, Bamboo Cafe, Biograph Theatre, Buddy’s, Bug Haus, Hababas, Jade Elephant, J.W. Rayle, Joe’s Inn, Sea Dream Leather, Uptop Sub Shop, WGOE, and then their was a team that called itself Arnold’s Pinheads, etc. -- was the only organized yet independent softball league in the Richmond area in those days that governed itself, made its own schedule, cut its own deal with the umpires, etc.

Its story will be told in a way that captures the flavor of that time, but, of course, I’ll use some restraint. So don’t anybody worry about this thing getting people sued or fired. Using my records from “The Sports Fan,” a FDSL newsletter I published in the late-‘70s and early-‘80s and the archives of SLANT, I actually have plenty of softball material and stats to pick over and characterize. It is stories such as this one you will never see in mainstream periodicals.

To flesh this new piece out a bit, I’ll be presenting a few recently gathered quotes from some of the most memorable clowns, all-stars and role players from the 20 years of Fan League history.

The feature for the June issue of SLANT is expected to be the story of Richmond’s most underground radio station ever, Color Radio (Channel 36 on Continental Cablevision). The threads of its almost-too-wild to-believe story (1982-84) lead through WDCE and eventually to WRIR.

SLANTblog will soon have news about a totally new online communication project to serve the Fan District with which SLANT is about to become associated. Stay tuned for updates ...

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